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🛒 shopping for study
🥸 is Shopify immune to regulatory scrutiny at home?
💅 I’m cool and chill, so I recently reported Shopify to…itself.
🗞️ And then I wrote about it in the Globe and Mail.
As the gatekeeper of their app store ecosystem, Shopify claims certain standards in their requirements for apps. One of these promises is that “apps that falsify data to deceive merchants or buyers” aren’t permitted on the Shopify App Store as they violate both the Partner Program Agreement and their Acceptable Use Policy.
By allowing these apps, I worry that Shopify is violating the bargain they have made with merchants. Further, displaying positive recommendations and high ratings for deceptive apps can encourage other merchants to deploy them because people assume that the app is compliant with the strong standards of the App Store, to the detriment of shoppers (us!).
Today, their app store still permits apps that allow merchants to selectively import positive reviews only, such as Judge.me, Loox, and AliReviews. In fact, the top three review apps on Shopify all have capabilities of importing selective reviews OR blatantly creating fake reviews in a spreadsheet, uploading it and calling it their own. This facilitates fraud. In the US, the FTC has put hundreds of businesses on notice about fake reviews and other misleading endorsements, but no comparable campaign exists in Canada.
What else? Despite advertising policy roles focused on anti-trust in the US and thus signally competition policy as a relevant interest to the firm, the company did not actively participate in last year’s Senator-led consultation examining the Competition Act in the Digital Age last fall. Meanwhile, competitor Amazon has reportedly threatened to shut off the marketplace if reforms move forward in Canada. Perhaps Shopify just has a quieter policy presence here at home.
I’m not trying to imply that Shopify is trying to ‘behave’ so that regulations are not imposed on the firm (thus potentially hurting its bottom line). My intention is to point out how the firm seems to be absent from general tech policy conversations. That feels intellectually lazy, and maybe like it’s our bad.